Not right time to talk about distribution of 13 new seats, says Shafie

Shafie Apdal says it is more important to govern the state properly and ensure its proper development instead of quarrelling over the issue.

KOTA KINABALU: Chief Minister Shafie Apdal believes the time is not right for any party to discuss the distribution of the 13 new state seats among the ruling parties.

“We should not be quarrelling about this. It is not important. The election is still far away and I don’t think the time is right,” he told reporters here today.

Shafie, who is also Warisan president, was commenting on the statement by his deputy, Darell Leiking, last week that the 13 new state seats approved by Parliament recently should all be given to Warisan.

The Sabah government is a coalition of four parties, namely Warisan, PKR, DAP and United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation (Upko).

Shafie said it is more important to govern the state properly and ensure its proper development instead of quarrelling over the issue.

“When the time comes, we will discuss the seat distribution,” he said.

Responding to Leiking’s comment that Penampang should have another state seat, Shafie said the state government will look into it.

However, he said any such plan would take time because under the current provisions, a redelineation activity can only be held once in eight years.

This is why, he said the government decided to carry on with the new 13 state seats approved by Parliament recently.

These seats, he said, have already been passed in the Sabah Legislative Assembly and any review on them, for the purpose of increasing the number of seats, would require a repeal of the current state constitution.

“Additionally, we will have to ask the Election Commission (EC) to do a study, which will take three or four years to complete. If I wait for four years, the legislative assembly will have to be dissolved by then.

“So, we might as well approve these 13 seats first. After that, in the future, when there is a need for additional seats, for Penampang, the interior and so on, we can do it again.

“The approach we used for changing the electoral boundaries is not only based on size but also the density of population to enable us to effectively deliver services to the people.”

Shafie acknowledged that Penampang, which has only two state seats, covers a huge area but so is Semporna, a federal constituency represented by Shafie. Semporna has three state seats.

“There are many islands in Semporna but there is no increase for my parliamentary constituency. But it is okay, we will wait.”

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Hanipa Maidin recently said the next redelineation of electoral boundaries in the peninsula is only due in 2026. For Sarawak, the eight-year period will end in 2023, while for Sabah it will end in 2025.